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Mark Making Revisited - The Benefits of being a Student as well as a Teacher

abstract figures oil painting orbs Nov 11, 2021

November 11, 2021

Mark-Making Revisited - The Benefits of being a Student as well as a Teacher

The video above is time lapse at 600%

The real time, one hour, version, is on my YouTube channel

Jill Richards introduced me to a number of contemporary artists who are currently inspiring me and helping me to grow even stronger as both an artist and a teacher.  My time spent painting in Jill's cottage studio in Wales during the month of September and early October moved me closer to the breakthrough I dream of ... the merging of the many aspects of my art to create a stronger, unified body of work that draws from my strengths in all the various aspects.

Towards Baile an Chaiseal (2002) by Barbara Rae

As soon as I returned to my studio I began to clear away the accumulated clutter to make way for the work I would be creating in Sally Hirst's online course Approaches to Abstraction.  The course began on November 8th and within twenty four hours I already reaped enough benefits to make it a worthwhile investment of my time and money.  The course is six weeks long.  I'm diving deeply into being an open-minded student again.  The first lesson includes discussion and activities involving mark-making.

I find myself smiling, hearing my own voice, having given students assignments on mark-making.  The benefit of being a student again is that I've been given an activity that's a bit different from the ones I usually present.  The important words here are "that I present".  I can't remember the last time I actually did a mark-making activity except to demonstrate one in class.  The last time I made marks as an activity was in the late 1970's for an assignment in art school.  Until now, mark-making was not a daily practice.  I draw daily and have done so for decades.  Drawing and mark-making are quite different.

Now my morning begins with a ten-minute mark-making practice. On the first morning, I created three pages of marks during the ten minute session.

I followed the ten minute session with a one hour Mark-Making Meditation (suggested by Sally).  I lit my Eucalyptus candle, played some suitable music and made marks on one, large piece of paper.  At the end of the session I cropped sections with my camera to create a montage of the sections.  

Both activities were stimulating and satisfying.  I wanted more.

Later in the afternoon I returned to my easel to work again on one of the three, large canvases I'd abandoned and am now attempting to resolve as I experiment with oil and cold wax medium (also introduced to me by Jill Richards). I found myself wanting to make random marks on the canvas Niurka and the Element of Ether.  What followed would not have happened if I hadn't done the mark-making activities in the morning.

Niurka and the Element of Ether - oil and cold wax on canvas 38" x 32"

Sally talks about developing muscle memory by practicing mark-making on a regular basis.  I definitely experienced that when I sketched musicians and dancers with ink and watercolor four nights a week during live performances and open mic jams.  Making a single, flowing line on a canvas of any size is no problem for me now.  There are, however, far more kinds of marks that bring energy and life into a painting.  I'm determined to build the vocabulary of my mark-making muscle memory.

I've thrown, dripped, splattered and atomized paint for years; watercolor, acrylic and oil.  I thought I was fearless with mark-making ... until now.  That's why I like being in student mode.  There's no pressure on me to be good at something I haven't done before ... or haven't done in quite the way I will be doing it during the next six weeks and well beyond. I look forward to seeing the work I'll be creating at the end of this course with Sally Hirst.  No doubt she will keep me on my toes and in my Dis-Comfort Zone.  That's what a great teacher does!  That's what I hope I do for my own students.  I haven't been this uncomfortable in quite a long time and I'm loving it. 

Sally Hirst's website is

I post on instagram -

Next week I'll be taking the Micro Portable Painter Palette with me on a road trip to New Hampshire and Maine.  I've been asked to test it out and write a review of the tiny watercolor travel palette.  It may become my newest favorite travel palette.

If you're curious about the vast range of my work from realism to totally abstract, visit is my album page on Flickr -

If you see a painting you are interested in purchasing or wish to inquire about a commissioned work of art please email me and I will get back to you with the availability. [email protected]

Thank you for reading my blog.

Chris Carter


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